Julia is the owner of Mas de Pradié in the Aveyron Department of the Midi-Pyrénées. As you may recall, Julia and her Château Sisters were featured on the popular Escape to the Château DIY television series.
Q: I understand that as the sole owner of Mas de Pradié, it is home for you and that you share with your family, sisters, nieces, and nephews. When did you first come to own the château and how did you happen to find it?
A: I settled on the property on the 9th of May 2019, so not even one year yet! But it is something I had wanted to do for a long time and for the previous two years I had been researching with my sister while I was still living in Australia. Then in September 2018 my sisters and I came over for a couple of months to view châteaux that we had shortlisted. We viewed about seventeen – all over France, from Loire valley to Pau, and everywhere in between. Then my sisters went back to Australia; I stayed on longer and found Mas de Pradié! It had just come on to the market, so I arranged to view it. It is one of the smallest chateaus over all that we looked at, but it had the biggest presence.
Q: 2020 will be an exciting year for you, as I believe that summertime will mark the start of château events at Mas de Pradié. What exciting things do you have scheduled for the year?
A: Yes, 2020 is going to be a very big and busy year. The stables have now been converted into a wonderful open plan 2 bedroom gîte and will be available for guests from Easter 2020.
20th June we have a gourmet alfresco dinner in our walled garden, with a renowned London Chef plus musical entertainment. To book, all information is on our website.
We also have a photo festival booked for the weekend of 27th / 28th June ‘PHOTOS DE FEMMES’ an exhibition of international female photographers work plus the opportunity for locals to submit their own work to the exhibition, plus we are taking submissions for all forms of visual art to be exhibited over the weekend, the theme is ‘Seeing WOMEN’ and the guidelines for entry are on our website.
Included over this weekend on Sunday 28th June we have a wonderful, Fine art photography workshop, available with the award-winning photographer, Pattie Fellowes, bookings are essential as numbers are limited all details are on our website.
A step to the side has led me down this path to Mas de Pradié and my new life in France.
A decision made that life from here on will only be filled with beauty, nature, and truth.
A wish to hear birds sing, watch flowers bloom and smell delicacies baking.
A desire for a slower life, but a fuller life.
Was there a particular life event that prompted you to take that step to the side and come to that decision?
A: I think we all reach a certain age and ask ourselves ‘is this it?’ When I ask myself that question I was not happy with the prospect of my life continuing on the same path, but that, of course, is the easy path to follow, It takes a lot of determination and guts to put a halt to one’s own life and turn it around and set it onto a completely different path, in the process you know you are going to hurt people and disappoint people but we only have one life to live and that life is our own.
Q: As an artist yourself, I can well imagine how Mas de Pradié must resonate with you, given that its previous owner, Bernard Dufour, was a famous French artist. Is that what inspired you to create the artist-in-residence program at your château? And, can you say when the first group of artists will begin their residencies?
A: I am hoping we will have our first artist in residence from August 2020, this will include monthly exhibitions of their work and hopefully some workshops will be run by the arts for locals to participate in. The arts will have Bernard’s old art studio to work in along with the large barn plus the beautiful natural environment on Mas de Pradié.
Q: Will the planned monthly showings of the artists-in-residence works be private or open to the public?
Open to the public plus hopefully, some of the artists will agree to run workshops as well while they are here.
Q: Since your decision to own the château, have there been any challenges that you and/or the Château Sisters have had to overcome?
A: I overcome obstacles every day physically and mentally as its hard work and non-stop, the list of things that need doing only gets longer as the bank balance only gets smaller. It is a leap of faith that everything will work out and Mas de Pradié will start paying its way before I run out of money. But I wake up every morning with a purpose and a mission for the day; I am living my life.
Q: What advice would you impart to those of our readers who might ponder taking the plunge to move to France and become Lord or Lady of the Manor?
A: The first thing is you will never become the Lady or Lord of the manor, you will become the caretaker, the guardienne, it will take all your money and you will have very little free time to sit around drinking champagne. But if you have a love for these beautiful old stone buildings and their history if you want to help preserve them and bring them back to life, and spend your days busy in that pursuit, then go for it!
Thank you for sharing with us, Julia. Lisa and I look forward to visiting Mas de Pradié one day soon and doing a vlog of you, your lovely home and your Château Sisters and family.